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At the Joint Statistical Meetings, One Year Later

1 July 2012 1,219 views No Comment
The ASA will celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2014. In preparation, column “175”—written by members of the ASA’s 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and other ASA members—will chronicle the theme chosen for the celebration, status of preparations, activities to take place, and, best yet, how you can get involved in propelling the ASA toward its bicentennial.

Contributing Editor
Christy Chuang-Stein is the chair of the 175th Anniversary Steering Committee and head of the Statistical Research and Consulting Center at Pfizer. She served as an ASA vice president from 2009–2011.

It was one year ago at the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings that the 175th Anniversary Steering Committee held its first meeting. Since then, the committee has met monthly, and often twice a month, to brainstorm ideas for celebrating the association’s 175th anniversary with a theme of “Celebrate Our Past, Energize Our Future.” The guiding principles are simple. The celebrations should be with all, for all, and by all members of the association.

Beginning in January, committee members have used this column to chronicle their collective thoughts about our journeys to the festive milestone in 2014. In February, Stephen Stigler wrote about the ASA’s longevity. He largely attributed the ASA’s success to its ability to adapt and change. In March, Fred Hulting described emerging opportunities for statistics professionals brought on by rapid changes in our environment. The latter include the rise of big data and globalization of the business world. In April, Dionne Price, George Williams, and Monica Johnston identified the ASA as a “big tent” organization and discussed approaches to bring more diverse yet scientifically connected professionals to the association’s big tent. The April article was followed by an ambitious 20k membership goal elaborated upon in the May column by Monica Johnston. Last month, Amy Herring and Narayanaswamy Balakrishnan highlighted contributions made by statisticians in advancing science and informing policy, and reflected on the ASA’s ongoing efforts to improve statistical literacy.

Over the past 11 months, our committee has consolidated our ideas for energizing the future into three broad categories. We are calling them StatSharp, StatGrowth, and StatImpact. As you can tell by their names, StatSharp will focus on expanding statistical education and raising the awareness among the next generation that statistics is an attractive career choice; StatGrowth will focus on growing our association, not only in depth and breadth, but also in membership numbers; and StatImpact will focus on the influence of statistics by demonstrating the benefit of statistical thinking in making evidence-based decisions and policies. All three categories exemplify the ASA’s mantra of “Promoting the Practice and Profession of Statistics.”

Preliminary planning has begun for activities in these categories. For example, committee members, in collaboration with the ASA’s education department, have asked the board for funds to help develop the curriculum for a virtual summer camp for secondary education teachers (StatSharp). Discussions have taken place with the Council of Chapters Governing Board to take advantage of the geographic proximity of chapters to reach out locally to quantitative scientists and practitioners who may be interested in finding a professional home (StatGrowth). We have brainstormed for possible venues to highlight examples of past statistical contributions and alert to opportunities in the future (StatImpact).

The operating principle is to collaborate with existing groups within the association (committees, sections, chapters, and outreach groups), relying on them for implementation and execution. If the participation of our committee can contribute to the overall effectiveness of the execution, we will certainly assist. We plan to meet with several partner groups at the upcoming JSM to seek input and solidify preliminary ideas. It is also our hope that, with our partners, we can start formulating a path forward.

As we prepare to celebrate this milestone anniversary, we are more convinced than ever of the importance of articulating the value of a professional society like the ASA to our members and potential members. Many of us have benefited from a strong statistical society, even though some of us may not realize it.
Any profession that wants to be recognized as such will form a professional society early in its growth, a society that affirms the profession’s identity and serves as its voice. Yet, as General Colin Powell once said, “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. … Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved.” The most valuable asset of an association is its members. Past generations of statisticians have built the ASA to what it is today. It is up to the current generation to ensure our association continues to grow, to be strong and relevant for the next 175 years.

Planning the future is important. It is equally important that we take time to enjoy the present and celebrate the roads traveled. Our committee will soon begin to address the “celebrating our past” part of the theme. We’d love to hear from you about your ideas for celebrations, which, though reflecting on the past and pointing to the future, are very much rooted in the present. For those who will attend JSM in San Diego, we invite you to stop by the ASA booth and share your creative ideas with us. It will take all of us to plan a successful and memorable party.

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